FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The union representing correctional officers at the Fresno County Jail has announced a strike for the end of this month – citing unsafe and understaffed working conditions. However, Fresno County says a strike by correctional officers is illegal.

The Fresno County Public Safety Association announced Monday evening their intention to strike on May 23 to highlight what members call the “exhaustive” working conditions and the inability to recruit and retain qualified staff resulting in “unsafe and understaffed working conditions.”

Union officials say in 2010 a deputy sheriff earned $960 more than a correctional officer. At the end of 2021, the salary gap between the two positions had more than doubled to $2,157.

The union also cites the introduction of Proposition 47 and Assembly Bill 109 as increasing the danger of working in a county jail and increasing the likelihood of physical assaults on correctional officers.

“Many of the inmates who would be serving time in California State Prisons, or the California Youth Authority are housed in county facilities. This makes for a more dangerous environment.”

Fresno County Public Safety Association

As part of the negotiations, both sides confirm that non-corrections employees have been offered a 3% raise every year for the next three years; corrections employees have been offered a 5% raise for the first year, followed by a 3% raise for the following two years. That would take effect at the end of 2023.

Instead, the Fresno County Public Safety Association wants a salary boost in line with inflation increases since 2010. Union officials say inflation has increased by 31% in that time.

As part of the proposed deal with the union, Fresno County officials say they also offered an increase in healthcare coverage and a change to the shift premium, a one-time pandemic payment of $1,500, a one-time payment of $500 for correctional officers and juvenile correctional officers who work in a congregate setting and other benefits.

In a statement in response to the union’s notice of intent to strike, Fresno County officials say that a strike by correctional officers is illegal.

“On that basis, the County will be seeking an injunction to ensure that essential County services are not interrupted.”

Fresno County

If a strike does go ahead, Fresno County officials say they will not release inmates prematurely but instead continue to “prioritize and ensure the safety of the public, staff, and inmates.” Officials add that employees are not entitled to regular pay during the time they are on strike, nor can they use their vacation or sick time.

An attorney for the Fresno County Public Safety Association responded to Fresno County’s statement that a proposed strike was illegal highlighting that correctional officers are not peace officers – and that union members have gone on strike in the past.